Beating the Beast

 

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So dark. Gloomy. Heavy mist. A steady dismal rain. No, this isn't a weather report, but a description of the first 30 years of my life.

Unlike some sufferers, my Beast has been with me from birth. It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I finally discovered that what had been bothering me all my life not only had a name but that it could be treated as well. By that time, it had already cost me one marriage. Years later it would cost me still another.

My mother was depressed, as was her father. My two brothers all suffer. Unfortunately for my mother, her depression was diagnosed as "female problems." The treatment? Complete hysterectomy. I don't know if she ever finally got treatment; such things are not discussed in our family. It wasn't until 3 or 4 years ago that my father even admitted that she had been depressed. "Your mother told me many times that if she didn't have you boys, she would have killed herself." Ultimately, cancer took her life.

Do you suffer this disease? Does the Beast sit upon your shoulders, digging its talons into your skull, riding you, driving you on, relentlessly pushing you ever and ever forward until you just want to cower in a corner and hide there, whimpering and crying, for the rest of your life? Hoping that your life would end there and then, quickly, cleanly, slowly, painfully, any way at all just so it would end, and the agony, the suffering would stop? I almost tried it once. I managed to convince myself to check into a hospital as an alternative to suicide.

You know what I mean, you sitting there, reading this, seeing the shadow of your own beast slanting across the keyboard and monitor.  You know exactly what the French poet Charles Baudelaire meant:
 

And giant hearses, without dirge or drums,
parade at half-step in my soul, where Hope,
defeated, weeps, and the oppressor Dread
plants his black flag on my assenting skull.

 

My depression was finally (finally!) recognized in the early 1980s, and I began treatment. Now, some 25 years later, it's pretty much under control. But I still have my dark times, those days
 

when rain falls straight from unrelenting clouds,
forging the bars of some enormous jail,
and silent hordes of obscene spiders spin
their webs across the basements of our brains

 

But they're few and far between. "Better living through chemistry," as Dow Chemical used to claim. And it's true. Find yourself a knowledgeable doctor, someone who is up on the latest treatments and medications. My doctor once told me that there has never been a better time in history to suffer from depression, as the treatment options are so numerous.

You can dissipate the clouds, you can chase the rain away, and you can keep the Beast at bay. You don't have to do it alone.

 

 
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Revised: 12/13/05.

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